Access to Justice – watering down the lawyer relationship is not the answer.

Warning – rant ahead.  Worse, it’s a rant that only lawyers probably care about.  Read on at your own peril.

There are many days, well frankly all of them, that I’m glad I refused to take Family Law in law school so I couldn’t practice it.  I admire my many friends who do practice Family Law.  These lawyers deal with emotional clients in high crisis situations.  It’s a tough area of law.  These days, our Law Society regulator is making it tougher.

Many people in family law situations have decided they would rather spend their money upgrading their car, wardrobe, appearance to find a new “love”, rather than money on a lawyer to deal with dividing their assets and who gets to raise their children.  Priorities people ?

This has resulted in many people trying to be their own lawyer in family law.  This slows down the Courts appearances and leads to a lot of frustration by everyone in the system.

Our Law Society has decided that a new “great way” to resolve this is to have non-lawyers and non-paralegals take a very short course (maybe a weekend) and then they can be a licensed “other” category for providing family law services.

Hey.  Regulator.  How about instead of watering down the quality of legal advice being provided to a person in crisis, we instead address the fact that people are choosing to spend money on things other than lawyers.

In business law, we often encounter people who think they don’t need a lawyer to create a contract, incorporate, terminate an employee, etc.    Those are people who end up paying more to have the issues fixed by lawyers after everything has gone wrong.

Lawyers need to start explaining to their Regulator and the public that we have value.  Stop with the stereotypes that we’re out there to take people’s money and not deliver value.  Remind people that lawyers guide very important life and business choices and that spending money on legal advice early on in a problem will reduce the fees overall.

Obviously, in non-business, low income situations, the lawyers will have to be legal aid funded.  However, it’s time to stop pretending that the family law litigant, driving a BMW, sipping 5 lattes a day and wearing an Armani suit, cannot afford to use a lawyer.

Lawyers are not leeches.  Lawyers are not vultures.  Lawyers provide value.  Lawyers protect rights.  Lawyers should be encouraged to be used

Our Regulator should not water down the requirements for a very important area of law, because it wants to increase “access to justice”.  What this proposal is doing is increasing access to the “idea” of justice.

Come on lawyers – let’s re-market ourselves – we have value to the public.

Inga B. Andriessen, JD